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Off with the cap and on with the helmet! Your visit to Chankanaab will be decidedly less hurried. Credit: Courtesy of Cozumel Municipal Governmen.

By Amy Drew Thompson

Think about a Mexican getaway, and the pervasive imagery generally includes white sand and blue water – perhaps Mariachis. Throw in a good bottle of tequila and I’ll race you to the airport. But for some travelers to Cozumel hotels, additional concerns arise: bike maintenance, bathing caps, whether their toenails have grown back since the last race.

These are Ironman triathletes, who recently returned to test their mettle in the ultimate endurance challenge in paradise. Of course, you don’t have to be up for a 2.4-mile swim, a marathon or a 112-mile bike ride around the island (never mind all three in a day) to enjoy the ath-“lite” versions.

Not only has the Fiesta Americana Cozumel – All Inclusive served as an Ironman host hotel, its just a half-mile from Chankanaab National Park, where the swim portion kicks off the race. If you can tear yourself from its lagoon and botanical gardens or the myriad wildlife encounters, you’ll surely enjoy your own leisurely freestyle in its balmy, crystalline waters.

Many race participants enjoy staying in town, where legions of locals turn out to cheer them on. Properties like the boutique Vista del Mar Boutique Hotel, with its intimate rooftop pool, sit steps from dining, shopping and the ferry terminal, and make a great jump-off point for on-foot exploration.

The northern coast of the island – following an extensive 2010 facelift – is ideal for running, cycling and offsetting the indulgences of vacationing. The smooth, safe bicycle path, well lit and dotted with benches, welcomes bike and sneaker tread along a route that showcases Cozumel’s colorful contrasts: verdant greenery and cerulean seas.

Sure, the Coral Princess Hotel and Resort has oceanview workout facilities, but why not run the Costera Norte instead? Trot past Buccano’s Bar & Grill on your way to the Cozumel Country Club, then turn back for a day at this beach club/restaurant – family-operated since 1960. In fact, beginning this month they’re expanding the menus, serving fresh Mexican-Caribbean fare for dinner on Friday and Saturday, in addition to breakfast and lunch.Eat now, worry later. You can swim it off tomorrow.

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Freelance travel writer Amy Drew Thompson runs and swims quite often, but doesn’t foresee an Ironman in her immediate future unless they add a wine event.

Tagged: Mexico

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